Lilly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Last Sunday, we got the sad news that Lilly’s best friend Katie needs a new home. Without bogging down in the details, suffice it to say that Katie’s own shyness/fear issues have impacted her bonds at home. Our hearts immediately turned toward heroism. Where better, we thought, for Katie to live than with US? Lilly loves her. We love her. She thinks we’re pretty neat, too. She often watches us play in the pasture, looking longingly over from her front corner perch. So, despite our rule of being a 2-dog house, we started figuring out a solution. Sadly, there are four members of our family, and one of them exercised his VETO power yesterday.
Enter Ginko — the big, sometimes-not-so-friendly, not-all-that-well-socialized boy of the house.
The problem with working in my profession, where narrative threads unfold daily, is that I’m very good at sewing together stories from pieces. While I laid in bed much of this week, I drafted a happy little life for us all in my medicated and feverish state. While I worried about life with 3 dogs, including one the size of a small horse, the whole thing seemed destined.
Maybe it’s weird, but Tom and I had often talked about taking Katie in “if something should happen.” Where those thoughts came from, I have no idea, but she’s just such a sweetie. And, seriously, Lilly ADORES her, and what would I NOT do to make my Lilly-bug happy?
I felt somewhat human yesterday, so we figured it was time for Ginko to meet Katie. Play dates had always been just between Katie and Lilly since we worry about Ginko’s knees and since he’s not exactly great with other people or dogs. It’s something I just accept about him because he’s such a great, loving dog at home.
BUT, since the BALL trumps everything, we figured our standard technique of introducing them via very specific play would be perfect. He would be focused on the ball. She could play around the edges. He’d see she was fantastic.
That’s how we introduced him to Lilly, and after one grumpy episode, they were fast friends in like 5 minutes.
Things didn’t go as planned.
Ginko could see the two smiling girls waiting for him outside. They’d already been playing for about an hour, before we let Ginko out. He was focused on Tom and the ball. So far so good.
But, as soon as we let him out, he made a b-line for Katie and everything about him had intent (not the good kind). He snapped. She snapped back, then ran away.
We got him focused back on the ball, and he started playing … while I went to console Katie.
But the next chance he had to interact with her, he took up the chase, in a very targeted manner. The good news is that she’s VERY fast. The whole thing scared me. I certainly don’t want Ginko hurting her physically (he is very strong) or freaking her out emotionally.
Tom took Ginko back inside. I kissed on Katie and Lilly, then let them play by themselves.
Tom and I had lunch, then he went out to play with the girls. But, when Katie saw Tom, she thought he had Ginko with him, and she sprinted for the front fence, trying to clear it.
Thankfully, at just 18 months old, she’s still quite gangly and does not have the coordination of the agility dogs all of us know and love, so she did NOT get loose, but it really scared Tom. We know all too well that fearful flee response, and it’s VERY hard to get a dog like that to come to you, especially a young one with an unproofed recall. What if she’d jumped? What if she’d been hurt?
So, I walked Katie home, then came home and cried and cried and cried.
Ginko, for his part, was a whiny, clingy mess after she left. He crawled in my lap, wrapped his neck around mine, and just sat there. At first, I thought he was upset. Then, I thought his knees hurt. Finally, we figured out he snapped a toenail chasing her. Those really hurt!
We’ve always said that our current dogs have the final word on who gets to join our family pack. Penelope Ok’d Cody, then after Cody died, she rejected a Dobie named Gilbert (or more accurately, he rejected her and me). She eventually OK’d Ginko, who was just 10 weeks old.
We had a tough time after Penelope died because Ginko picked a fight with every dog we introduced him to at the shelter. Seriously, he met dozens of dogs and didn’t like any of them. Eventually, we got permission to introduce him to Lilly here at our house, and it went SO well that we assumed the location made the difference.
How strong is Ginko’s veto power? Well, if you asked me yesterday, I would have said rock-solid because my primary loyalty and commitment is to my current dogs. He who came first comes first. In fact, I emailed many of my close friends and said it was a No-Go. I went through about a half box of Kleenex last night thinking about Lilly losing her best friend and about how Katie deserves a Champion-of-My-Heart style home.
I’m a total wreck.
But I just talked to Katie’s mom, and she’d like to try again on neutral territory, with the dogs on leash, etc., maybe even get a trainer involved. Do I have the energy for that? This might just be an experiment in how much behavior modification work one girl can handle.
So, lobbying efforts are underway.
I’ve already told Tom that I can deal with one (possibly two) fearful girls, but that he’s in charge of Mr. Grumpy Pants. Coming off of these germs, I can only do so much. And, I just don’t know how much my own soft heart can take.